Right-wing critics of Barack Obama’s foreign policy complain that it’s either not “muscular” enough, or that it’s, as John McCain put it, “feckless.” With the current Ukraine/Russia crisis, we’re now told that Obama doesn’t properly understand the Cold War. But some of his critics don’t remember much about the Cold War either, apparently.
Take USA Today columnist Jonah Goldberg. He wrote a piece (3/3/14) chastising Obama for being too “eager to insist that our long, unpleasant history with the Russians is behind us.” The real problem, Goldberg claims, is that “Obama didn’t like America’s Cold War policies during the Cold War.”
And there is apparently one policy in particular that makes Goldberg mad. It was evident in something that Obama wrote for–no, I’m serious–his college paper:
In 1983, then-Columbia University student Obama penned a lengthy article for the school magazine placing the blame for US/Soviet tensions largely on America’s “war mentality” and the “twisted logic” of the Cold War. President Reagan’s defense buildup, according to Obama, contributed to the “silent spread of militarism” and reflected our “distorted national priorities” rather than what should be our goal: a “nuclear-free world.”
He adds that “there’s precious little evidence his views have changed over the years.” It’s that last part Goldberg is especially concerned with: “In his first term, President Obama’s biggest priority with Russia was to get the two countries on the path to that ‘nuclear-free world.'”
He has a point–why, just look at this statement from Obama’s second inaugural address:
We seek the total elimination one day of nuclear weapons from the face of the Earth.
And months later:
The United States is now engaged in a serious and sustained effort to negotiate major reductions in levels of offensive nuclear weapons with the ultimate goal of eliminating these weapons from the face of the earth.
So Obama really is committed to this evidently naive “nuke-free world” idea.
Oh wait, sorry. Those are quotes from Republican icon Ronald Reagan.
Goldberg’s beef isn’t with Obama–it’s with Ronald Reagan. Actually, the professed goal of US presidents from Reagan onwards has been a nuclear-free world (Christian Science Monitor, 3/26/10). And it is the express goal of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), which calls for “the elimination from national arsenals of nuclear weapons and the means of their delivery” (Extra!, 8/05)–signed by President Lyndon Johnson in 1968 and ratified by President Richard Nixon in 1969, and legally binding on the US since then.
But–perhaps to Goldberg’s relief–it’s not clear that Obama is doing much about all of this, Nobel Peace Prize notwithstanding. As critics of Obama’s nuclear policies have pointed out (Institute for Public Accuracy, 3/5/14), the Obama White House is actually increasing spending on US nuclear weapons programs.